Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, Israel
The Muslims say there never was a temple there. The Jews point to history, archaeology and the Bible, which all tell the story of the First Temple built by Solomon on the Temple Mount in 968 BC – standing until it was destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC. These sources also tell the story of the Second Temple that stood on the Temple Mount from 516 BC until 70 AD.
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
The prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled when the Romans, led by General Titus, completely destroyed the temple in 70 AD.
Origins of the Temple Mount Conflict
So what is there about this place that has kept the conflict boiling for century after century? God covered the first 2,000 years of human history in just eleven chapters in the Bible(Genesis 1-11). He then slammed on the brakes and devoted the next twelve chapters to the life of one man – Abraham.
God had given a promise to Abraham. You will have a son, and through this son shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Twenty-five years after the promise had been given, Abraham and his wife Sarah were still childless. By this time Abraham was 85 years old and Sarah was 75. Their faith in God’s promise began to waiver.
Sarah suggested to Abraham that perhaps they needed to become a little proactive. She may have said to Abraham, “After all, God helps he who helps himself.” Sarah had an Egyptian handmaid Hagar. Sarah suggested that Abraham take Hagar as a second wife so that Sarah could obtain children by her. Hagar did conceive a son by Abraham and called his name Ishmael. However, Hagar flaunted the fact that she could bear children and Sarah could not. This brought tremendous conflict into Abraham’s family.
When Ishmael was 14 years old, Sarah finally gave birth to a son, Isaac. By this time Sarah was ninety years old and Abraham was one hundred. What an incredible miracle! There was no doubt that this was the promised child. A short time after this, Sarah observed Ishmael mocking Isaac. Sarah demanded that Abraham cast out Hagar and her son from their household. She said that the son of the bondwoman should not be heir with her promised child.
This was very painful for Abraham, but God spoke to him that he should listen to Sarah and expel Hagar and Ishmael. God promised Abraham that He would make Ishmael into a mighty nation because he was Abraham’s seed. However, God emphasized to Abraham that Isaac would be the promised seed. So, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, and eventually Ishmael became the father of the Arab race.
The child Isaac began to grow. He was the apple of Abraham’s eye. He was the center of his life. God had fulfilled His promise to Abraham, and life was good.
Introduction to the Temple Mount – Mount Moriah
Since Abraham was destined to become an example to all who would walk with God and put their trust in Him, one more ultimate test was needed. The question that had to be answered was: Did Abraham love God more than he loved the blessings that God had bestowed upon him? Was God still first in Abraham’s life in spite of his extreme attachment to his son, Isaac?
The test is recorded in Genesis 22:1-2:
Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.
This extreme test for the man who was to become the “Father of the Faithful” was not to be carried out just anywhere. God specifically told Abraham to go to the land of Moriah and perform this ultimate act of obedience on “one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Moriah was approximately thirty miles to the north of Beersheba where Abraham lived. This was quite a journey to make on foot, but God said this historic event must take place on a specific mountain that would come to be known as Mount Moriah, which today is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
When Abraham raised the knife over Isaac, God stayed his hand, saying, now I know that you have withheld nothing from me. Looking behind him, Abraham saw a ram that was caught by his horns in a thicket. God had provided a substitute sacrifice and had kept His promise to Abraham.
Mount Moriah Becomes the Temple Mount
One thousand years after Abraham, King David captured the city of Jebus from the Jebusites, making it the capital of the nation of Israel. He renamed the city Jerusalem. After this, David decided to number the people of Israel, even though God had instructed him not to. Because of his disobedience, God sent a mighty plague upon the people of Israel, killing 70,000 men.
David cried unto the Lord for mercy. God sent the Prophet Gad to David to tell him what to do that the plague might be stopped. The prophet told David to build an altar unto the Lord in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. The threshing floor of Araunah just happened to be Mount Moriah where Abraham had raised the knife over Isaac 1,000 years before. So God once again chose this specific site for His special purpose.
David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah for fifty shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24:24). It also became the place where Solomon built Israel’s First Temple in 968 BC. This fact is recorded in 2 Chronicles 3:1:
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
I will Put My Name There Forever
When the beautiful temple built by Solomon was completed, he offered a sacrifice unto the Lord and prayed a prayer of dedication. This famous prayer can be read in 2 Chronicles 6. When Solomon’s prayer was finished, a most remarkable thing happened. Fire supernaturally fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, showing God’s acceptance of Solomon’s prayer and the house he had built unto the Lord. This amazing event is recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3:
“Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”
After this, God appeared to Solomon by night, and responded to his prayer:
“I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.”
2 Chronicles 7:12-16
The End of the First Temple Era
Solomon’s temple stood from 968 BC until 586 BC. After the reign of Solomon, Israel was split into two nations. Ten tribes made up the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital in Samaria. Two tribes became the southern kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. In 721 BC, Israel was carried into captivity by the Assyrians and was dispersed. God continued to work with the nation of Judah.
However, over time, Judah did evil in the sight of God. God sent Jeremiah, the prophet, to warn that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, would take Judah captive. Jeremiah foretold that the Babylonian captivity would last for seventy years. After this, God would deliver Judah from captivity and restore her to the land of Israel.
Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in 606 BC, carrying away many into captivity and placing those remaining in Judah under tribute. After a few years, King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, refusing to pay the imposed tax. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Judah. The First Temple was destroyed in 586 BC, and the remainder of Judah was carried into Babylon to be servants.
The Second Temple Era Begins
In 538 BC, the kingdom of Babylon was overthrown by the Medes and the Persians. That same year Cyrus, the king of the Persians, made a decree that all Jews wishing to return to Israel were free to return. He also admonished them to rebuild the house of the Great God in Jerusalem. In 536 BC, many Jews led by Zerubbabel made their way to Jerusalem and the construction on Israel’s Second Temple began.
After much opposition, the Second Temple was completed in 516 BC. The Second Temple was enlarged and made much more beautiful by Herod the Great around 20 BC. This is the temple that stood on the Temple Mount during the time of Jesus. It was said of Herod’s Temple, “He that has never seen Herod’s Temple has never seen a beautiful building in his life.”
The Second Temple Era Begins
After Jesus had been rejected by most of the Jewish people, He wept over Jerusalem and foretold its destruction. This event is recorded in Luke 19:41-44:
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
The prophecy of Jesus concerning the destruction of the Second Temple was fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. Just as Jesus said, not one stone of the temple was left upon another.
In 132 AD, the Jews rebelled against the Roman Emperor Hadrian. In 135, Hadrian’s army defeated the Jewish armies and Jewish independence was lost. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina and the Jews were forbidden to live there. Hadrian changed the country’s name from Judea to Syria Palaestina.
Second Exile Begins
After their banishment from Jerusalem, Jews were scattered throughout the world. For almost the next 2,000 years, the Jewish people were sifted among the nations. But amazingly, they retained their distinct identity.
At times the Jewish people were able to blend into the nations where they lived and to enjoy a period of relative peace. However, the specter of persecution was never far away. The Roman Catholic Church labeled Jews as “Christ killers” and therefore persecution against them was justified, if not encouraged.
Among the greatest of these persecutions was the famous edict that launched the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. Jews were given four months to leave Spain or to convert to Roman Catholicism, by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Jews did leave, losing everything. Around 50,000 converted to Catholicism, in order to save their lives. Several thousand Jews were tortured and put to death by the Roman Church during this period.
Then came the worst persecution of all – Hitler’s horrible holocaust. Before the guns of World War II fell silent, 6 million Jews had been marched to their deaths in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.
Third Temple Era Begins
After World War II, the guilt of standing by while six million Jews died moved the nations of the world to vote for the creation of a Jewish state in the land called Palestine – formerly the Holy Land.
The United Nations took its famous vote on November 29, 1947 to partition the area called Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews quickly accepted the UN partition plan even though the territory allotted to the Jewish state was much smaller than that originally promised in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. The Arabs rejected the UN partition plan vowing to wage war against the Jewish state until they had driven the Jews into the sea.
Violence in the Holy Land broke out almost immediately after the United Nations adoption of the partition plan. Jamal Husseini, the Arab Higher Committee’s spokesman, had told the UN prior to the partition vote the Arabs would drench “the soil of our beloved country with the last drop of our blood.”
Husseini’s prediction began to come true after the UN announcement. The Arabs declared a protest strike and instigated riots that claimed the lives of 62 Jews and 32 Arabs. By the end of the second week, 93 Arabs, 84 Jews and 7 Englishmen had been killed and scores injured. From November 30 – February 1, 427 Arabs, 381 Jews and 46 British were killed and 1,035 Arabs, 725 Jews and 135 British were wounded. This “unofficial” war continued against the Jews until the official declaration of independence by Israel.
The area called Palestine had been under the authority of the British Mandate from the time of World War I. However, the British decided to wash their hands of the troubled region. They announced that the last British troops would pull out of the Palestinian region on May 14, 1948. This left the area without any authority in charge. Israel did the only thing it could do. It declared its independence on that same night. The Arabs launched war against Israel the very next day. Five Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq) immediately invaded Israel.
Most of the world expected the newborn state of Israel to be wiped off the map by the superior forces of her invaders. To everyone’s surprise, Israel not only held her own, but actually gained territory beyond what the UN partition resolution had provided for. Of course, the resolution had no effect since it had been totally rejected by the Arab people. When a ceasefire was finally declared in 1949, Jordan occupied the area of Judea-Samaria (the West Bank) and also controlled the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Israel controlled the western part of Jerusalem.
The Temple Mount is in Our Hands
By 1967, Egyptian President Gamel Abdul Nasser believed Egypt and her allies were strong enough to destroy the 19-year-old nation of Israel. He ordered the UN troops out that had kept the peace along the border between Egypt and Israel. He replaced the UN troops with his own Egyptian troops. He then blockaded the Straits of Tiran, denying Israeli access to international waters, which was a blatant act of war. Nasser signed mutual defense pacts with Jordan and Syria, and during May of 1967 made several speeches announcing his intention of launching war against Israel.
The handwriting was on the wall. Israel saw that war was inevitable. Consequently, on June 5, 1967 Israel’s air force launched a pre-emptive strike against the air force of Egypt. Ninety percent of Egypt’s air force was destroyed before its planes could leave the ground. The war was virtually over before it even started. Hostilities immediately began between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Syria.
Hoping to keep Jordan out of the war, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan. The message simply said, “The state of Israel has no quarrel with Jordan. If you stay out of the conflict, we will not attack you. However, if you choose to join the war, Israel will come against you with all her might.”
Jordan launched an attack against Israel on June 7th. Israel counterattacked. The Temple Mount was taken and Israel rolled back the Jordanian occupation of Judea-Samaria (the West Bank), driving Jordanian forces across the Jordan River back into the country of Jordan.
After six short days, Israel had defeated Syria in the north, Jordan in the east, and Egypt in the south. Most importantly, Jerusalem was reunified and the Temple Mount was in Israeli hands for the first time since the Romans drove them out in 70 AD. Many in Israel believed Israel’s time of redemption had indeed come. Could the Messiah be far behind?
Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory
After the breath-taking victory of the Six Days War, Israel possessed much of the territory described in the Bible as Israel’s Promised Land. Much of the world expected Israel to annex the land, remove the two Muslim shrines from the Temple Mount, and build Israel’s long-dreamed-of Third Temple.
However, Israel’s secular rulers had far different ideas. They feared men more than they feared God. Furthermore, the last thing they wanted was a surging Jewish revival that would inevitably result if the Temple were built on the Temple Mount.
To the world’s amazement, Israel invited the Muslim Waqf to return to the Temple Mount as the custodian of the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Most Jewish rabbis told the Jewish people they should not even visit the Temple Mount lest they inadvertently stand in the Holy of Holies, which was forbidden for them to do. As a result, the Jewish people largely forsook the place where God had said He would place His name forever.
Over the next forty years, Muslims tightened their control over the Temple Mount with the cooperation of Israel’s secular governments. Jews were strongly discouraged from visiting the Temple Mount. The ones who did go there were forbidden to pray or to perform any act of worship. Any Jew who dared to pray on the Temple Mount was arrested by the Jewish police and charged with endangering Israel’s national security. The evolved state of events was almost beyond belief. The Jews who could pray anywhere in the world were not allowed to pray on the one place that God Himself had chosen and promised that He would put His name there forever! What was even more incredible; Israel was in sovereign control of the place!
Preparing to Build the Third Temple
While Israel’s politicians curried favor with the United States and the United Nations, there were those in Israel who knew what Israel ought to do. Yisrael Ariel was among the soldiers that captured the Temple Mount from the Arabs in 1967. From that day forward he dreamed of someday building Israel’s Third Temple on the Temple Mount.
In 1987, Rabbi Ariel founded an organization called the Temple Institute. Its purpose from the beginning was to prepare for the building of Israel’s temple. One by one, the vessels and the utensils required for temple worship were recreated. In everything, the Institute attempted to follow the instructions given in the Torah. Progress was slow, but Ariel and others who had joined him trudged on.
The Temple Institute Visitors Center was opened shortly after the founding of the Temple Institute. Its purpose was to heighten awareness of the Jewish temple in the minds of the Jewish people and the peoples of the world. Today, thousands of people visit the Visitors Center each year.
By 2012, most of the furniture and the utensils of the temple had been recreated. The one piece of furniture that was missing from the Temple Institute was the Ark of the Covenant. It was hoped that the original Ark would be found. However, it had not been seen since the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.
Finally the decision was made. A new Ark of the Covenant should be built for use until the original Ark could be found. In the spring of 2013, the new Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Temple Institute alongside the rest of the temple furnishings. It was at this same time that the Institute announced that the architectural drawings for the construction of Israel’s Third Temple were completed. Everything was ready for Israel to build her Third Temple after nearly 2,000 years of exile! The only thing standing in the way was the dispute with the Muslims over the Temple Mount.
The Battle for the Temple Mount
Because most of the Jewish rabbis taught that Jews should not go up to the Temple Mount, until they could be purified from contact with a dead body (Numbers 19), the Temple Mount was almost totally occupied by Muslims and tourists. Jews realized they would lose the battle for the Temple Mount if they did not start illustrating its importance to them by visiting there.
Certain Jewish rabbis began to teach that Jews could go up to the Temple Mount as long as they avoided certain areas that were forbidden. A concerted effort was made to encourage Jews to visit the place that is the holiest site on earth to them. At first, just a few Jews visited the Temple Mount. After a while, the number of Jewish visitors began to grow. During special Jewish holidays, hundreds were organizing to visit the place where Abraham raised the knife over Isaac.
This increased attention to the Temple Mount by the Jews did not go unnoticed by the Arabs. They attempted to intimidate the Jews from visiting the site. Occasionally, young Arab men would throw stones toward the Jewish visitors. Sometimes the Arab women would hiss, as the Jewish visitors would pass by. Other times, shouts of Allahu Akbar would be directed toward the Jews. The battle for the Temple Mount was on, and both sides knew it!
Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin
Before he became a member of Israel’s Knesset, Moshe Feiglin’s custom was to visit the Temple Mount once each month. Feiglin resented that he couldn’t even quietly say a prayer on Israel’s holiest site without being arrested by the Jewish police.
Feiglin decided to pray anyway. He was quickly apprehended by the Israeli police and forced to appear before a judge. The judge ruled that Feiglin had done nothing wrong since Israeli law provides freedom of religion to all people within the state of Israel. The judge told Feiglin he was free to go without penalty. The next month the scene was repeated. Feiglin prayed on the Temple Mount. He was arrested. The judge pronounced him not guilty. Again he went free.
When Israel’s elections were held in January of 2013, Feiglin won a seat in the Israeli Knesset. Now he enjoys diplomatic immunity and the right to participate in making Israel’s laws.
A Law to Share the Temple Mount
On November 1, 2013 Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home Party) introduced a bill to the Israel Knesset that would place the Temple Mount under a sharing arrangement. If enacted, this bill would allow Jews and Muslims to worship and pray on the Temple Mount equally. This potentially explosive bill is still under consideration.
On February 25, 2014 an historic debate was held in the Knesset on the issue of freedom of religion and Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount. During the debate, MK Moshe Feiglin said, “I call on the government of Israel to stop the discrimination and embarrassment of Jews in entering the Mount and on the site.” He further called on the government “to allow free access to all Jews to the Temple Mount from every gate, and prayer on the Mount, as required by it being part of the state of Israel, the Jewish state,” which stipulates freedom of worship.
Netanyahu Supported Jewish Rights to the Temple Mount in 1994
MK Shuli Muallem (Jewish Home), during the debate, read a letter written by Netanyahu in 1994, before his first term as prime minister.In the letter Netanyahu wrote, “The right of the Jewish people over its holy site – the Temple Mount – cannot be questioned; I think that Jewish prayer rights at the site must be arranged, all the more so because we give freedom of religion to all religions in Jerusalem.”
Temple Mount Awareness Day
On March 30, 2014 the Temple Institute held its Fifth Annual International Temple Mount Awareness Day. “By presenting a selection of individuals who have dedicated their life to The Temple Mount, we allow for a unique experience for thousands worldwide to rediscover their connection to The Holy Temple and Temple Mount through a range of perspectives, views and disciplines,”explained Temple Institute International Director Rabbi Chaim Richman. The Temple Institute says International Temple Mount Awareness Day “seeks to celebrate the promise of the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the revolution in Temple consciousness that is taking place in Israel.”
Rabbis Issue United Call for a Synagogue on the Temple Mount
Coinciding with Temple Mount Awareness Day, a large group of highly respected Israeli rabbis sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking him to establish a synagogue on the Temple Mount. “The Temple Mount is a unique place for prayer,” the letter said. “As Prime Minister, we ask you to do what is necessary to establish a place of prayer for Jews on the Temple Mount, in a respectable and peaceful manner, that will honor the holy place we all long for.”
Knesset Committee on Temple Mount Prayer Convenes for First Time
A special Knesset subcommittee convened on April 7, 2014 to hear arguments for allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. It is the first time that the Knesset has conducted an in-depth examination of Jewish demands to be allowed to pray on the Mount. The committee is a subcommittee of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee and was appointed by MK Miri Regev (Likud-Beytenu), who heads the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.
The issue of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount has for a long time been considered too much of a religious and political hot potato to be addressed. That now seems to be changing. MKs, Deputy Ministers and even senior government Ministers all regularly ascend the Mount. The movement to restore Jewish rights on the Temple Mount has now left the station. It’s an issue whose time is come, and it will not be denied!
Abbas: Israel Intends to Divide the Temple Mount
As the demand for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount gathered steam, even PA Chairman Abbas was apparently feeling the pressure. On March 25, 2014 he accused Israel of striving towards a division of the Temple Mount in a manner akin to the current division of the Cave of Machpela in Hebron, burial site of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Rebecca and Leah. It is obvious that the sharing of the Temple Mount has already come up for discussion in the peace talks conducted under the direction of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Muslims React Violently
As the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount has multiplied, Muslims have increasingly resorted to violence on the Temple Mount. They have learned, if they start throwing rocks at the Jewish visitors, the Israeli police will shut off the Temple Mount to Jews under the pretense of protecting national security.
The Jews have protested that the rock throwers should be put off the Temple Mount instead of punishing Jews who did nothing but try to visit the holiest place in the world to them. During the recent week of Passover, Arab youths threw rocks at the Jewish visitors, resulting in the injury of two policemen and the arrest of 24 Arab youths.
What will Ultimately Happen to the Temple Mount?
When President Bill Clinton was leading negotiations between Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in July of 2000, the talks stalled on the issue of the Temple Mount. Arafat said the Muslims just couldn’t give it up. Barak said that the Muslims had their first holy site in Mecca and their second holy site in Medina. He argued that the Jews didn’t even have their first holy site.
However, Arafat was adamant. We can’t give it up he contended. Finally, President Clinton said, “You can just share it.” Arafat said, “It won’t work. You can’t put Jews and Arabs on the same 35 acres without them killing each other.” Barak replied that it could work. He said, “We could simply put the Temple Mount under the supervision of an international authority – possibly the United Nations.” In the end, Arafat was not willing, and the peace talks failed. However, an idea was born that has not died away. It is now believed that when there is a peace agreement, the Temple Mount will be open to all worshipers under international supervision.
In Revelation 11:1-2, a sharing of the Temple Mount is described as it will be 42 months before the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus:
“And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”
In the prophecy John was told to measure the temple but not the outer court because it would be under Gentile control for the next 42 months. This paints a picture of the Temple Mount and a rebuilt Jewish temple. However, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque will also be on the Temple Mount.
A peace agreement is prophesied between Israelis and Palestinians. When it is achieved, the Temple Mount will be shared, just like the prophecy said 2,000 years ago.
In the meantime, the 4,000-year-old battle between Ismael and Isaac continues.